AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has stressed that his players must keep up their intensity and concentration in their quest to win the Scudetto.
Milan will make the trip to the island of Sardinia looking to build off their last two wins in the league, during which they triumphed 1-0 in both games against Napoli and most recently Empoli to take advantage of others dropping points and to claim first place outright.
Cagliari are hovering just above the drop zone and have had a hit and miss season under Walter Mazzarri, so the Rossoneri know the dangers that a game against a team scrapping for their lives can present, given the recent draws against Salernitana and Udinese.
Pioli spoke to the reporters who gathered at Milanello on the eve of the clash for his pre-match press conference, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and relayed below.
What type of game are you expecting tomorrow?
“It is a moment in which all the teams have great motivations. You need to prepare in the best possible way, we will need a performance of quality and intensity.”
How are the team doing?
“It was a full week in which we worked well. We didn’t talk about the table, I saw great attention and commitment.”
How is Ibrahimovic?
“He is better than a week ago. His minutes have increased, then we will see what choices to make for tomorrow.”
What brought Giroud to Milan?
“Giroud has given Milan quality and depth, he is an important pivot of the group. I expect the best from him and everyone in this final of the season.”
Milan have not scored much lately…
“We are showing solidity as a team in the non-possession phase. We are not scoring a lot, but we have many players who can score. The games are open for everyone and the details make the difference: we have to be careful about everything, including scoring a few more goals.”
What does it mean to be in charge of your own destiny?
“There are still nine games to go, we virtually have one point ahead of Inter, three over Napoli and seven over Juventus. Maybe Atalanta have lost a few points, but the games are open for everyone. We only have to think about tomorrow’s match.”
How are you physically?
“I’m calm, the team is doing well, especially in the head and this is the most important thing for me.”
Does the level drop in the second half of games?
“We are working on this. Against Empoli we managed the ball wrong in the second half, but in the end Maignan made only one save. We must never stop trying to be dangerous.”
Are you bothered by those who say that Milan are first by chance?
“What is said outside here interests me little. We have to think only of us. We are focused on what is most important, which is to keep improving.”
How is Italian football in your eyes?
“The fact of not having any Italian team in the top eight of the Champions League is certainly a negative figure. The level is high, but I don’t think we miss it very much. Surely we need to improve in terms of intensity and mentality.”
What are the qualities and virtues that Milan must have in the last 9 games?
“Positive energy to be put on the pitch every match.”
What do you think about refereeing mistakes?
“I don’t like talking about what happens to the others and the referees. We have to think only of ourselves and make as little mistakes as possible.”
Who won’t be available tomorrow?
“Daniel Maldini will not be there because he still has a fever today. Today I will evaluate Tonali, while Giroud is fine. Diaz has had a blow and we will also evaluate him today.”
What about Kalulu?
“Kalulu has within him a belief in his own means that allows him to play with great personality. This allows him to always play calm and serene, it is a great merit for such a young player. He has a great desire to improve and is now collecting the fruits of his work. Now he will have to confirm what good he is showing.”
Ibra has been called up by Sweden…
“I’m not worried, if he feels like going, he should go. If he’s convinced, I am too.”
Have you thought about Rebic on the right?
“We have many solutions, it depends on the matches. We will face different teams that play three-way behind, and therefore there are different ways to deal with them. The important thing is to always maintain the breadth and depth of our plays.”
Why have you preferred Messias to Saelemaekers in the last few games?
“Messias is working hard for the team, as well as Saeleamekers. I expect decisive play from them.”
How is the morale of the team?
“I’ve seen them very attentive and focused these days. What matters is only tomorrow’s match. Every game is an important crossroads, the most important victory is the one that must arrive.”
Are you afraid of Pavoletti?
“Pavoletti is a penalty area player, Cagliari play a good attacking game. We will have to be very careful.”
What is the secret?
“The relationship with the managers and the availability of the players.”
What do you expect from Cagliari?
“All the teams have great motivations, we have a great goal and so do they. We will encounter an aggressive team, there will be many duels. If you want to win the game you have to win more duels and tackles.”
Does Kalulu remind you of anyone?
“He still played too few games to make a comparison.”
Will it be a different Cagliari than the first meeting this season?
“We will have to play our football beyond the characteristics of Cagliari. We will have to be attentive and lucid throughout the game.”